Believe it or not, there are roughly 100 trillion bacteria living inside your digestive system right now. That’s the same as the number of stars that exist in the largest galaxy in the universe! Some of this is “bad bacteria” and some of it is “good bacteria,” but it is all collectively considered your gut microbiota. It’s like its own ecosystem, working to keep your body healthy.
Your microbiota is like a fingerprint: unique to you. About one-third of gut bacteria is the same for each person, but the remaining two-thirds is specific to each individual. And this bacteria can play a huge role in your health, head to toe.
So what do these microbes in your gut actually do? And how do they influence your overall health?
Your Gut and Your Brain
There’s a direct correlation between your gut health and your mental health. Eating the right foods and encouraging a healthy microbiome won’t cure major chemical imbalances, but it can help you get proper sleep, and even elevate your mood.
Your brain is, of course, partially responsible for promoting a healthy sleep schedule, but did you know that your gut plays just as important of a role in getting a good night’s sleep? Ninety percent of your body’s serotonin is found in the gut. Serotonin helps produce melatonin, or “the sleep hormone,” and in fact, there is 400 times the amount of melatonin found in your gut than in your brain.
Recent studies have proven a direct connection between the body’s gut and the brain, and that gut health can have a huge impact on pain, sleep, cortisol levels, and even depression and anxiety. Sleep can help encourage a healthy microbiome, and in turn, healthy flora in the digestive system can promote good sleep patterns and improved mood, and potentially even prevent depression.
Your Gut and Your Body
One of the main ways that your gut bacteria influence your health is your metabolism. These bacteria determine what nutrients you absorb from the food you eat, as well as how many calories your body takes in. Too much gut bacteria can turn fiber into fatty acids, leaving fatty deposits in your liver, which can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Having a wealth of healthy microbes in your gut can have a positive influence on fighting disease and lessening the symptoms of some medical conditions. Because of the ability of a strong microbiome to relieve inflammation, developing a healthy microbiome can reduce joint pain for those with rheumatoid arthritis. It can also reduce the risk of some cancers, lower the chances of heart disease, and boost the immune system and its ability to fight melanoma.
In short, having a well-developed microbiome is like preventative medicine.
How You Can Improve Your Gut Health
You can seek out certain foods to encourage a healthy gut. What you eat not only feeds you, it feeds your gut bacteria as well. Because of this, it’s important to think of foods that will help grow your gut microbiome to get all the health benefits of a healthy digestive system.
Ninety percent of our cells are nonhuman cells. Instead, they are microbial cells like the bacteria found in our gut— we really ARE what we eat.
- Eat a diverse array of foods: Research has shown that 75% of the world eats food from only 12 plant species and 5 animal species, but in parts of the world where they eat a wider range of foods, they have a more diverse array of microbiota in their gut.
- Choose plenty of fruits, vegetables, and legumes: Vegetables, legumes, and fruits are all high in fiber, which is hard for your body to digest. However, some of the bacteria in your gut can break down and digest fiber. In fact, eating foods higher in fiber stimulates the growth of these bacteria. Foods that are high in fiber include:
- Split peas and boiled green peas
- Chia seeds
- All varieties of beans (black, pinto, kidney, etc
Generally, a plant-based diet is high in fiber and will encourage a healthy flora of bacteria in your digestive system, among other health benefits like reduced inflammation and lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Incorporate fermented foods: Foods like kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, and sauerkraut all have healthy, live bacteria cultures that can encourage the growth of bacteria in your gut, can improve digestion and boost immunity. These foods have a strong presence of probiotics, and incorporating probiotic supplements is another way to incorporate these bacteria into your diet.
- Avoid ultra-processed foods: Food with refined sugars and emulsifiers, and a lack of fiber does not encourage the growth of healthy bacterial flora. Sugary sodas and carb-heavy processed foods feed the bad bacteria living in our gut, causing inflammation and can even promote overeating.
Total wellness doesn’t just include the wellness of your spine and your joints: It starts from the inside. At South Orange Chiropractic, we believe in the wellness and health of the whole body. Do you have questions about how your gut health can impact the health of your joints, and potentially relieve pain? Connect with us today to start your journey towards total health.